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George William Martens (1872–1949)

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George Martens, n.d.

George Martens, n.d.

George William Hinrich Martens (1872-1949) bush-worker, gaoled trade unionist parliamentarian 

Birth: 9 September 1872 at Mt Perry, Queensland, son of Johann Hinrich Nikolalus Martens also known as John Henry Marten or Martin (1846-1897), carpenter, and Marie Margaretha Anganita, née Hinricks, also known as Mary Margaret Henricks (1850-1923). Both parents had been born in Schleswig Holstein, Denmark. Marriage: 12 February 1902 at Mount Perry, Queensland, to Queensland-born Bertha Sophia Bellert Burchardt (1876-1950). They had two daughters and five sons. Death: 23 August 1949 at Beach Road, Bondi, Sydney, NSW. Religion: Church of England. 

  • Educated to primary school level at Mt Perry and Gayndah state schools. Employed in various types of bush-work — including stockman, fencer and drover — in the Mount Perry and Bundaberg districts. Became known as a good horseman.
  • Returned to Mount Perry in 1899 and worked at the smelters then at mixed farming on the Burnett. In 1903-1906 his occupation in electoral rolls is shown as “machine agent”.
  • Organiser for various periods with the Sugar Workers’ Union which joined with Amalgamated Workers’ Association (AWA). In 1911 he was appointed organiser with the Australian Workers Union (AWU), Central District. Was active in Queensland sugar strike of 1911, when he was in charge of the strike camp at Childers. Was arrested with others, charged with riotous behaviour and imprisoned for about fourteen days awaiting bail. The charge was apparently dropped after settlement of the strike. Resigned in 1913 to take a turn at insurance canvassing and railway work.
  • From 1917 he was again elected organiser for the AWU district until 1920 when he was appointed district secretary. In January 1926, replacing John Dash, he was elected president of the Queensland State branch of the AWU, which was seen as being right-wing and therefore Martens was viewed as being an opportunist and selling out for personal advancement as he had previously frequently engaged in militant activities.
  • Contested election to the Australian Senate as a selected Australian Labor candidate Party in December 1922.
  • Elected ALP member of the Federal House of Representatives for the seat of Herbert on 17 November 1928, narrowly defeating Dr Lewis Nott. Member, select committee on tobacco industry 1930. Member of the joint committee on public works 1940-1943. Executive member of the parliamentary Labor Party 1937-1945. Secretary of the parliamentary Labor Party 1941-45. Retired from parliament in August 1946 after losing ALP pre-selection – having moved his home to Sydney.
  • Appointed government representative on the board of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd.
  • Cause of death: coronary occlusion and arteriosclerosis.

Joan Rydon (ed), A biographical register of the Commonwealth Parliament 1901-1972 (ANU Press, 1975); E. H. Lane (Jack Cade), Dawn to Dusk: reminiscences of a rebel, (Brisbane, 1939), pp 99-102 []s.

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'Martens, George William (1872–1949)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

George Martens, n.d.

George Martens, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


9 September, 1872
Mount Perry, Queensland, Australia


23 August, 1949 (aged 76)
Bondi, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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